There are many different types of nutritional guidelines that help to indicate what certain types of food people should consume on a daily basis. Overall nutritional guidelines for general health are typically developed by a government agency; these provide a broad idea of the variety of foods an otherwise healthy individual should eat on a daily basis. Other guidelines are developed for people with specific needs, such as those who are trying to lose weight and are monitoring their caloric intake, or those with specific medical conditions such as diabetes that require strict diet modifications. A doctor or dietitian can provide customized guidelines for these purposes, tailored to a specific individual.
General government issued nutritional guidelines are produced in different areas around the world. These provide overall tips for the amount of servings of different food groups that should be consumed by people every day. For instance, these guidelines might include recommendations for a higher number of servings of fruit and vegetables, while lower numbers of servings of meats, dairy, and fat. This gives people a quick way to assess if they are eating a relatively healthy diet or if they need to make some changes in order to stay within the guidelines. These types of guidelines are also often used to develop meal plans for students in schools.
Other, more specific nutritional guidelines may be provided for the recommended daily amounts of certain nutrients such as carbohydrates and protein, or certain daily vitamins. A recommended overall caloric intake may be provided as well. These numbers are generally more specific to the people who will be consuming the food; for instance, a young person who exercises at a high intensity every day may need much higher levels of protein and carbs than someone who is older, and leads a more sedentary lifestyle. Someone attempting to lose weight may need to limit caloric intake as well.
In some cases, nutritional guidelines may be developed on an individual basis, such as for someone attempting to manage a certain medical condition through nutrition therapy. For instance, someone suffering from high cholesterol might be instructed to follow a diet low in saturated fat, while a diabetic may need to eliminate sugar entirely. There are sample meal plans and nutritional guidelines available online for people with special needs such as these, or a doctor or registered dietitian can assist in developing the best meal plan for each individual patient to accomplish health goals.